Jack Ma Cedes Control of Fintech Giant Ant Group
is ceding control of Ant Group Co., capping a tumultuous period for the Chinese fintech giant.
Mr. Ma will no longer be the controlling person of Ant, the company said in a statement on Saturday, confirming a previous report by The Wall Street Journal.
The changes are being made to reduce Ant’s reliance on the flamboyant Chinese billionaire, who co-founded
Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.
and helped create Ant, the Journal reported previously.
Mr. Ma doesn’t hold an executive role at Ant or sit on its board, but is a larger-than-life figure at the company. He has controlled Ant via an entity in which he holds the dominant position. The agreements that allowed Mr. Ma’s dominance will be terminated. He and nine other Ant executives and employees will have voting rights at the company and can exercise their power independently of each other and of Mr. Ma, according to Ant’s statement.
Ant, which owns the popular digital-payment platform Alipay, has been forced to overhaul its operations amid a government crackdown that began with Beijing calling off the company’s multibillion-dollar initial public offering in November 2020. The IPO, which had been slated to happen in Shanghai and Hong Kong concurrently, would have raised more than $34 billion and valued Ant at more than $300 billion.
Ant has been revamping its various business lines, from consumer lending to insurance, and will eventually become a financial holding company subject to regulations in line with traditional financial firms.
The change of control moves Ant a step closer to finishing its overhaul. Yet it also could put back a potential revival of Ant’s IPO for a year or more. Chinese securities regulations require a timeout on public listings for companies that have gone through a recent change in control.
Regulators didn’t demand the change but have given their blessing, the Journal reported previously. Ant is required to map out its ownership structure when it applies to become a financial holding company.
The nine others who will hold voting rights include Chairman
Executive Vice President Xiaofeng Shao and Chief Technology Officer Xingjun Ni, in line with the details in the previous Journal report. Mr. Shao is also the general secretary of Ant’s Communist Party committee, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Ni was instrumental in founding Alipay in 2004.
Mr. Ma has all but vanished from the public spotlight since he laid into Chinese regulators in a controversial speech days before Ant’s planned IPO in 2020. He retired from Alibaba in 2019 but continued to control Ant. The two companies that Mr. Ma co-founded have been charting separate courses in light of Beijing’s crackdown on big internet platforms.
Mr. Ma’s control over Ant goes back more than a decade to the period when he was CEO of Alibaba. Throughout the years, he had contemplated giving up control of Ant out of corporate-governance concerns that risks may arise from Ant being too reliant on a single dominant figure atop the company, the Journal reported previously.
Write to Jing Yang at [email protected]
Corrections & Amplifications
Jack Ma will own equity in one of two entities that will have voting rights in Ant Group. An earlier version of this article incorrectly said he would continue to hold equity in an entity that controls Ant. (Corrected on Jan. 7)
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Appeared in the January 9, 2023, print edition as ‘Jack Ma Cedes Control of Ant Group.’
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